Women’s Health Survey Indicates Widespread Lack of Awareness About Uterine Fibroids
We recently conducted a survey where with 380 different women, asking them questions about fibroids, symptoms, and treatment. Our goal of this survey was to determine how many women are aware of fibroids or the non-surgical treatment method UFE. At USA Fibroid Centers, we understand that uterine fibroids can be debilitating as they often cause painful symptoms like abdominal cramping. If you are experiencing symptoms of uterine fibroids, it’s important to consult with a fibroid specialist as soon as possible. The effectiveness of your treatment will be more likely if you attack the fibroids early on.
When we conducted this survey, we asked our participants a range of questions including:
- Do you experience heavy periods?
- Do you experience periods lasting more than 7 days?
To our surprise, the answers we got were varied. We were assuming that most woman would say they knew about fibroids but they didn’t experience symptoms. Unfortunately, more than one in five of our participants reported heavy periods. Of this group, nearly 45% of participants older than 25 said they were not familiar with uterine fibroids.
Common Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
There were many women that not only reported heavy periods, but also periods that last for more than 7 days. This symptom of fibroids can be especially debilitating as it can cause some women to miss out on work or certain recreational activities. Out of all of our participants, 42% said that they experienced some form of back pain while menstruating. Although it may seem like a normal part of PMS, these symptoms could be indicators of uterine fibroids.
We believe that many women with fibroids remain undiagnosed and may be needlessly suffering from uterine fibroid symptoms, such as:
- Heavy and prolonged bleeding between or during periods
- Anemia, which can lead to fatigue
- Pain during intercourse
- Frequent urination
- Constipation and/or bloating
- Pain in pelvis or lower back
- Increased menstrual cramping
- Stomach swelling
Women’s Health Issues
Women always have to be on the lookout for any reproductive health conditions. Potential health issues may involve uterine fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, PMS, and fertility. While some of these conditions can be benign or only mildly bothersome, others may be painful and potentially life-threatening. Many women’s health conditions have overlapping symptoms –– such as heavy periods or pelvic pain –– so it is important to receive proper medical evaluation and treatment.
At USA Fibroid Centers, we care about women and their healthcare needs. Our healthcare specialists know that when women attend regular wellness screenings, receive accurate diagnoses, and are properly educated on all available treatment options, they can attain the best possible health outcomes. Therefore, one of our ongoing goals is to better understand what factors affect individual healthcare choices. By understanding this, we believe that we can be positioned to better serve the entire community.
For instance, we continually ask questions like:
- Why are some women more proactive with their health?
- Why do others avoid the doctor, despite experiencing debilitating symptoms?
- What role does having access to health insurance play?
- How can we help women become better informed of their treatment options?
When we conducted our survey, as a women’s healthcare provider that specializes in uterine fibroid treatment, we were particularly interested in the level of awareness about fibroids and non-surgical fibroid treatment. Our survey results offered several interesting insights, which we will detail throughout this report.
Past studies have demonstrated that uterine fibroids impact 70 to 80 percent of women by the age of 50. Despite their prevalence, our survey revealed an alarming percentage of women who aren’t familiar with uterine fibroids.
We also know that when diagnosed with fibroids, some individuals are informed that hysterectomy –– the complete surgical removal of the uterus –– is the only available treatment method. Our survey confirmed what we already suspected: the majority of women remain unaware of Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), an effective, non-surgical fibroid treatment. This minimally-invasive technique can relieve symptoms and preserve fertility. It also has less risk and a shorter recovery than fibroid surgery.
Overview of Survey
To better understand some of the issues affecting women’s healthcare, USA Fibroid Centers conducted a survey of 380 women on topics involving women’s health, uterine fibroids, and menstrual product preferences. Our survey asked 24 questions in the following categories:
- Period variance (7)
- Medical knowledge (5)
- Medical history and healthcare preferences (8)
- Cancer and abnormal pap tests (4)
Although our survey inquired about broader women’s health topics, this report primarily focuses on those responses that relate most directly to uterine fibroid symptoms, care, and treatment.
Our results indicate:
- Nearly one-third of women suffer from heavy periods or severe cramps, both key indicators of uterine fibroids
- There exists a widespread lack of awareness surrounding uterine fibroids and available treatment options
- Age, income, health insurance, and healthcare proactivity all play a role in understanding women’s health conditions and related treatments
More than one in five of participants (22%) reported they experience heavy periods, one of the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids. Along with being uncomfortable, messy, and potentially embarrassing, heavy periods can also lead to anemia, a condition involving low red blood cells which can cause low energy levels, weakness, and shortness of breath. Additionally, 45% of participants above 25 years old who identified as having heavy periods were not familiar with uterine fibroids.
Lengthy periods are another common fibroid symptom. A small percentage of our respondents reported experiencing their periods for more than eight days (7%), with more women reporting periods that last between one and seven days (29%).Along with heavy and lengthy periods, severe cramps are another potential sign of uterine fibroids. Nearly one-third of participants reported severe menstrual cramping. In addition, a large portion reported back pain (42%), leg pain (7%), or back and leg pain (18%) during their periods. These are also common fibroid symptoms.
Out of all participants who indicated their heavy periods last between one to seven or over eight days, 46% were not familiar with uterine fibroids. Of those individuals, 57% also experience severe cramping during their periods.
Other Menstruation Issues
We also inquired about emotional symptoms. Although sometimes overlooked, uterine fibroids can result in mood changes, low energy, poor self-esteem, sadness, or depression. At times, these issues can be severe. According to our survey, many women experience emotional symptoms during menstruation –– 45% reported feeling upset or moody during the majority of their period and 48% reported being down or exhausted on and off during their period.
Because many women with fibroids experience excessive menstrual bleeding, they often purchase large amounts of menstrual products. We asked what types of period products are used and why they are chosen. The following were indicated: pads (68%), tampons (52%), menstrual cups (12%), period underwear (12%), and other (13%). When asked which factors drive their product choices, comfort (58.7%) was the most cited reason, followed by the ability to control flow (44%). Other factors, such as cost or environmental impact, appear less significant.
Patient Understanding of Uterine Fibroids and Available Treatment
Overall Knowledge of Women’s Health Conditions
We created this survey to learn more about the level of knowledge held by women about specific health conditions. We discovered that although the vast majority of respondents were familiar with ovarian cancer and cervical cancer, less than half had heard of uterine fibroids (48%).
While uterine fibroids are not cancerous, they are much more prevalent than other types of tumors in the reproductive tract. As mentioned previously, 70 to 80% of women are impacted by the age of 50 –– though some don’t experience any symptoms. Along with the potential to cause painful and uncomfortable symptoms, these growths come in a range of sizes. In some cases, they can become large enough to damage surrounding organs, such as the bladder or bowels. They can also impact fertility –– making it more difficult to become pregnant or causing pregnancy complications.
Have You Heard of Uterine Fibroids Embolization (UFE)?
Despite a common misconception that hysterectomy is the only available fibroid treatment, this isn’t the case. At USA Fibroid Centers, we offer an effective, outpatient treatment called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). Unfortunately, our survey revealed that Uterine Fibroid Embolization is one of the least known available fibroid treatments, with only 27.1% of all respondents having ever heard of it. Out of our respondents who had heard of uterine fibroids, 45.74% were familiar with UFE.
During a UFE procedure, an interventional radiologist uses ultrasound mapping to locate the fibroids. Then, they numb a small portion of the upper thigh and insert a tiny catheter. Through this catheter, embolic material is injected into the uterine artery. This material blocks the fibroid’s blood supply and nutrients, which causes it to shrink and eventually wither away. It is extremely rare for fibroids treated with UFE to regrow in the future.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization offers many benefits:
- Minimally invasive
- High success rate
- Takes only 30 to 45 minutes
- General anesthesia is not required
- Uses only local anesthesia, along with a sedative
- Does not involve stitches or scarring
- Involves less risk than fibroid surgery
- Uterus and surrounding organs remain intact
- Preserves fertility
- No hospital stay is needed
- Most are back to normal activity within one to two weeks
Hysterectomy, or the surgical removal of the uterus, can also be used to treat fibroids. Most of our survey respondents were familiar with hysterectomy (79%). Of those who had heard of uterine fibroids, this rate was even higher (85%). However, only 40% knew about both UFE and hysterectomy. In other words, a large percentage of women remain unaware of their full range of fibroid treatments.
This is especially important because hysterectomy has a number of drawbacks. Surgical risks include:
- Excessive blood loss
- Development of blood clots
- An adverse reaction to general anesthesia
Other issues to be aware of:
- Surgery takes one to two hours
- Performed under general anesthesia
- A hospital stay is required
- Involves a lengthy recovery of six to eight weeks
- No driving while taking prescription pain medications
- Limited mobility and no lifting heavy objects during recovery
- Involves stitches and scarring
- Causes permanent infertility
- Potential for early menopause, depending on age
We find it concerning that some are told hysterectomy is their only available fibroid treatment option, particularly because 64% of respondents stated that if they discovered they had uterine tumors, they would immediately schedule the recommended procedure. Only 23% would wait and seek a second opinion and perhaps learn about less invasive techniques.
Because most fibroids can be treated effectively without surgery, we aim to educate women about all their options so they can make a fully informed decision.
How Age, Income, Insurance, and Proactivity Level Affect Women’s Healthcare
From our survey, we learned that age, income, insurance, and healthcare proactivity can affect the likelihood of being familiar with fibroid awareness and fibroid treatment options.
Prior studies show that women of childbearing age are most likely to be affected by uterine fibroids, with a majority being diagnosed in their 40s. For our survey, participants ranged in age from 18 to over 64, with nearly half having never heard of fibroids. Of respondents above 35 years old, 40% were not familiar with uterine fibroids. Of respondents above 45 years old, 39% were not familiar with uterine fibroids.
In other words, as women age, they may be slightly more likely to be familiar with fibroids.
Our survey respondents’ income levels ranged from low-income to over $100,000 per year. We believe that women in lower income brackets are less likely to be accurately diagnosed with fibroids due to lack of health insurance or the inability to visit the doctor for other reasons.
Access to health insurance is an essential component of receiving appropriate healthcare. Of those surveyed, 72% have health insurance, 11% have high-deductible insurance, and 14% have no health insurance.
If respondents learned that their medical issue would not be covered by insurance, 10% would cancel and 24% postpone an upcoming doctor appointment. Additionally, 20% would either not undergo or delay treatment, and just over one-third would choose a cash option if available.
Although most major health insurance plans cover fibroid treatment, we are concerned that those without health insurance, or those with high-deductible insurance, may cancel or postpone doctor appointments, ignore their symptoms, and ultimately not receive essential treatment.
Uterine fibroids are often detected through a routine pelvic exam as part of a woman’s annual wellness exam. Therefore, women who don’t attend this important health screening are less likely to be diagnosed or find relief from their symptoms. Our survey indicated that only 67% of women attend regular wellness exams.
We also learned that such doctor visits are critical for increasing awareness of uterine fibroids. Of women who don’t attend their annual wellness exam, 62% weren’t familiar with fibroids. By comparison, this drops to 41% for regular attendees.
Unfortunately, 14% responded that they are not proactive with their health. We know that if left undetected, fibroids can continue to grow and cause increased symptoms, impact fertility, and potentially harm surrounding organs. It is clear that being proactive with one’s health is key for understanding uterine fibroids, fibroid symptoms, and potential treatments.
Our survey results helped us discover a notable and unfortunate lack of awareness surrounding uterine fibroids and non-surgical fibroid treatment. In addition, we learned that age, income level, health insurance, and healthcare proactivity can affect who is more likely to visit the doctor, learn about women’s health conditions, and follow through on recommended treatments.
With approximately one-third of respondents indicating that they suffer from common fibroid symptoms like heavy periods and severe cramps, we believe that many women are undiagnosed. Of those who have already been diagnosed, many remain unaware of how Uterine Fibroid Embolization can improve their symptoms and quality of life.
At USA Fibroid Centers, we aim to educate women about uterine fibroids and all available treatments. If you are experiencing potential fibroid symptoms, please contact us today and make an appointment with one of our fibroid specialists.